LOS ANGELES — On April 12, the Los Angeles Kings signed left wing Alex Iafallo to a four-year contract extension valued at $4 million/year (average annual value).
A bit surprisingly, there has been some criticism of this deal, with the belief that Iafallo should not have been signed for that much money, that he is not worthy of his position as a top-line winger with center Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.
Despite the criticism, Iafallo was very positive when he spoke to the local media.
“I’m very excited to be here,” he said. “I’ve loved it since I got here. It’s a great organization, great players along the way. What we’ve got here, we can do something special. I’m excited to be a part of the next four years.”
“I’ve put my heart and soul into things, and that’s what I want to do here,” he added. “That’s why I want to stay. I want to do everything I can to help this team, providing as much leadership, and everything [else] that I can do, on the ice and off, for this team.”
Head coach Todd McLellan spoke of Iafallo’s value to the team.
“Having Iafallo re-signed is really important to our organization,” he noted. “In my opinion, he’s a Swiss Army Knife. We feel good about putting him on the ice in every situation…It’s amazing how many teammates came by, [asking] ‘what’s going on with him? We’ve got to get him signed,’ They really want him to be here, and he really wants to be here.”
“He’s a committed player,” he added. “He wants to get better. He’s low-maintenance. He takes responsibility for his game, and he works on it. The second thing that comes to mind is that players want to play with this guy. Not everybody is requested as a line mate all the time…this guys is. That tells us, as an organization, an awful lot about him.”
“You can [also] trust him and put him in any situation. Is he always going to get the job done? Not necessarily, because nobody can. But his brain, his legs, and his sense, take him into the right position to get the job done, and that’s why players want to play with him. He’s one of those players who coaches talk about, management teams talk about—maybe even fans—you have to watch him for a while to appreciate him. Those guys are really, really valuable. You’ll see today that teams are trying to get those type of players for a playoff run.”
Iafallo has spent most of his time with the Kings on a line with Kopitar and Brown, as McLellan noted.
“[For Iafallo], it’s just a steady incline [upward], really,” said Kopitar. “He came in pretty much as a question mark. [But] he jumped on the line with [Brown and I], and never let go. He had some ups and downs the first couple of years, but he’s been very steady. His production has been going up, and Todd shows a lot of trust in him, putting him on the power play and the [penalty-kill]. He plays in every single situation. He’s a big part of this team.”
“Most importantly, he realizes that, as a team, if we’re going to take the next step, that he’s going to be a big part of this team. It’s nice for him, I’m sure, to get this out of the way, just focusing on growing, and getting better.”
“[Kopitar’s words] makes me feel] really good,” said Iafallo. “I look up to him, and I appreciate hearing those words from him. I want to be part of something special going forward. That’s why I want to stay, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Kings general manager Rob Blake said that they were committed to re-signing Iafallo.
“The key with Alex was locking up what we consider to be our core,” he said. “He has proven to be a very versatile player. Very reliable. A really good fit with Kopitar and Brown over the years. Extending him and taking a step forward was important for us.”
“We fully understand exactly what Alex does, and [how he fits with] with this group, and his importance to this group. From day one, we were going to get it done. These things take time. That’s something I’m learning. It’s a process we have to go through, but we were 100 percent committed to getting him signed.”
Blake added that by re-signing Iafallo, they can look more at adding new pieces to the puzzle, so to speak.
“Now you take other steps, and you get to the summer, and you have the [ability] to add to the group,” he said. “You’ve got Alex, and you’ve got part of that core, going forward. You know where he fits. Now you add to that. That’s been our [sole] focus.”
It should be obvious, from the comments by McLellan, Kopitar, and Blake, just how valuable Iafallo has been to the Kings. Is he an elite scorer? No, and he probably never will be. But he has an uncanny knack of getting in on the forecheck, getting to loose pucks, creating turnovers, and getting those loose pucks to Brown and Kopitar for scoring chances—things that he does consistently, in addition to scoring his share of goals.
More often than not, good forward lines have a player who does the kind of “dirty work” that Iafallo does. Former Kings right wing Dave Taylor comes to mind—that’s exactly what he did for the famed Triple Crown Line with Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer. Taylor played a tougher, more physical brand of hockey, but the ability to do the “dirty work” along the boards, in the corners, and behind the net, is very, very similar between the two. Good lines generally have such a player and for years, they have been highly valued. As such, is Iafallo worth what his new contract will pay him?
A resounding “yes” is really the only answer here.
LEAD PHOTO: Alex Iafallo, shown here during practice at the Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo, California.
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